news Analysis of the National Broadband Network’s three year plan released last week appears to show that the NBN company is not following a politically motivated pattern with respect to its rollout, with Labor and the Coalition largely receiving equal treatment from the company ahead of the upcoming Federal Election.
Last week the NBN company revealed the areas that will have the National Broadband Network constructed over the next three years, including areas that will be connected to the network via the HFC cable rollout methodology. The total number of premises across the country that will be able to order a service or be under construction by September 2018 is slated to reach almost 9.5 million.
However, in the days following the release of the rollout plan, the NBN company has come under criticism for some aspects of the rollout plan. Following its release, for example, it emerged the company planned to overbuild TransACT’s long-established Fibre to the Node and HFC cable networks in Canberra, Mildura and Geelong with more Fibre to the Node cables, in a decision which appears to make no technical or commercial sense.
In other areas of Canberra not already covered by TransACT’s FTTN network, for example, the NBN company is not yet planning to build any new infrastructure.
This morning blogger Kenneth Tsang published analysis which he stated showed that the NBN’s three year plan targeted “cross-bench seats and marginal LNP electorates”.
“Analysis of the NBN construction plan released last week shows that on an averaged per-electorate basis, seats held by cross-bench MPs Adam Bandt (Greens), Bob Katter (Katter Australian Party), Clive Palmer (Palmer United Party) and conservative LNP seats has the greatest number of premises scheduled to commence construction over the next 3 years,” Tsang claimed.
However, the numbers published by Tsang do not appear to support the theory that the NBN’s rollout has a political factor in terms of benefiting the current Coalition Government. Tsang’s analysis appears to show that the NBN rollout will target Labor and Coalition-held seats in roughly equivalent numbers over the next three years.
For example, the top category of seats targeted by the NBN over the next three years will be safe Liberal seats, while marginal Labor seats will receive about the same number of premises constructed. The next largest categories will be safe Labor seats and marginal Liberal seats. The individual electorates to receive the highest number of premises with NBN connections will be in inner-city areas, consistent with the higher population density of those areas.
The NBN company has been criticised in the past for what some have seen as an approach that has targeted certain electorates above others.
For example, in April 2012, then-Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull (now Prime Minister) said:
“NBN Co roll-out maps released last week reveal an unmistakeable concordance with Federal electoral boundaries in Brisbane. But far from targeting marginal seats, the NBN rollout in Brisbane is almost entirely gerrymandered around Federal Labor’s safest Queensland seats.”
“In the greater Brisbane area, the Labor-held seats of Rankin, Moreton, Lilley and Griffith achieve significantly more coverage than the neighbouring LNP-held electorates of Brisbane, Ryan, Dickson and Wright. Yet many parts of the latter have inadequate broadband, such as Grange in Brisbane and Karana Downs in Ryan,” he said.
The NBN company itself has consistently denied any political motivation in choosing where it deploys its infrastructure.
In 2012, then-Communication Minister Stephen Conroy and then-NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley pre-empted the Opposition’s claims on the issue, stating that NBN Co’s engineers had no idea where the electoral map boundaries were.
The locations were chosen, according to NBN Co at the time, firstly on the basis of meeting a number of policy objectives, namely that construction should take place across both rural and metropolitan areas; that construction should be across all states and territories; that the rollout in Tasmania should be finished by 2016 and that all new developments with over 100 premises should be covered.
In addition, NBN Co added a number of its own guidelines to help determine the schedule, ranging from the idea that the fixed wireless rollout should be completed in 2015 (it will target a small percentage of areas which won’t receive fibre); that satellite broadband via NBN Co’s own satellites should be available by 2015, and that areas where there were a large number of new developments should be prioritised, to avoid old technologies having to be installed — only to be replaced with the NBN later on.
However, the NBN company has not responded to a number of requests put by Delimiter to the company over the past several weeks to detail how it chose its new three-year plan of locations.
Image credit: NBN company